News and Press Releases

Roman Plea

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2011

OPERATION ZENITH DEFENDANT CONVICTED
OF CONSPIRACY, MAIL FRAUD AND BRIBERY

United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced today that JAMAL M. ROMAN, age 50, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson to all the charges against him, including one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371; seven (7) counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341; and three counts bribery involving a federally-funded entity, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666(a)(2). As a result of his conviction, ROMAN faces up to 175 years imprisonment and a fine of $2,750,000. ROMAN will also be required to pay restitution to his victims. ROMAN will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson.

During the guilty plea hearing, ROMAN admitted his role in schemes involving sales tax fraud, bribery, and payroll tax fraud. With regard to sales tax fraud, ROMAN admitted, from May 2001 until March 2006, he defrauded the State of Louisiana, East Baton Rouge Parish, and Ascension Parish out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue. ROMAN did so by causing fraudulent monthly reports to be submitted concerning the sales at his restaurants, including Mis Padres Restaurant (formerly Papacito’s Restaurant) in Prairieville, Louisiana, and four restaurants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, including Roman’s Café on Perkins Road, Roman’s Mediterranean Restaurant on Airline Highway, Roman’s Lebanese Greek Market on Government Street, and Mis Padres Restaurant (formerly Papacito’s Restaurant) on Bluebonnet Boulevard (collectively referred to as “the Roman Restaurants”).

During the guilty plea hearing, ROMAN also admitted that, in furtherance of the sales tax conspiracy, he funded multiple bribes to officials with the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditing Office in connection with an audit of his restaurants. The first bribe was paid in March 2004 to City-Parish Auditor Jerome Shore for the purpose of reducing the audit assessment from $100,000 to approximately $40,000. The second bribe was paid in October and November 2004 to the manager of the Auditing Office who, unbeknownst to the defendant and the conspirators, was cooperating with law enforcement authorities. The purpose of the bribe was to further reduce the audit assessment to $15,000. The third and final bribe was intended for the manager of the Auditing Office and funded by ROMAN in November 2004. The purpose of the bribe was to eliminate the assessment entirely.

During the guilty plea hearing, ROMAN also admitted that, from 2000 until 2006, he knowingly failed to pay payroll taxes on approximately half of the wages paid to employees at the Roman Restaurants. Such wages were paid by cash and corporate check. As part of the scheme, the defendant caused a payroll processing company to submit, via the U.S. Mail, false quarterly reports to the Louisiana Department of Labor which significantly under represented the number of employees at the Roman Restaurants and the amount of wages paid to those employees.

This case is part of Operation Zenith, a long-running investigation into fraud and corruption in the collection and payment of sales and payroll taxes. With regard to the sales tax fraud, Operation Zenith uncovered evidence that business owners and the president of an accounting firm had been under-reporting the sales from various businesses by over ten million dollars ($10,000,000) in order to avoid remitting sales tax to the state and local governments. In an attempt to conceal this massive scheme, the business owners and the accountant paid bribes to officials within the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office and agreed to bribe an auditor with the Louisiana Department of Revenue. In addition, the conspiracy count to which ROMAN plead guilty outlines the funneling of $700,000 to Syria as part of the conspiracy.

The status of the Operation Zenith defendants is as follows:

• Jamal M. Roman: Convicted for 1 count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, 5 counts of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, 2 counts of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud, and 3 counts of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.

• Mohamed H. Ruman: Convicted of 2 counts of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud. Awaiting sentencing.

• Rostom H. Laymon: Convicted of 1 count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, 1 count of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud, and 3 counts of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.

• Humam S. Al-Alousi: Convicted of 1 count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, 1 count of bribery, and 1 count of making a false statement to the FBI. He was sentenced to sixty months imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, and $220,401 in restitution.

• Khoa Dinh Chau: Convicted of 1 count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud and 1 count of bribery. He was sentenced to thirty-seven months imprisonment, a $30,000 fine, and $98,695 in restitution.

• Hassan S. Abousoayd: Convicted of 4 counts of bribery and 1 count of using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. Awaiting sentencing.

• Jerome R. Shore: Convicted of 1 count of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.

Operation Zenith is the result of the combined efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana State Police Criminal Intelligence Unit. The investigation has also been greatly assisted by the cooperation of the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office. Other governmental agencies and entities also provided assistance, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Louisiana State University Police Department, the Louisiana Department of Labor, the Louisiana Department of Revenue, the Ascension Parish Sales and Use Tax Authority, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Government of Lebanon.

U.S. Attorney Cazayoux stated: “My office will continue to devote the necessary resources to successfully pursue complex corruption and fraud schemes, such as those perpetrated in the Operation Zenith cases. These fraud schemes directly impact our state and local governments’ ability to fund schools, roads, unemployment compensation, and other vital programs.”

David W. Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Division of the FBI stated: “This guilty plea represents the extremely positive results of multiple law enforcement agencies and prosecutors working together toward the common good of bringing to justice those individuals who would carry out fraud schemes that negatively impact the citizens of this state.”

Operation Zenith is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Criminal Chief Corey R. Amundson, Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens, and Assistant United States Attorney Reginald Jones.

 

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